A much changed side and as is so often the case with these second team games, the tempo started extremely slow without much action at all. A chance at either side, Ighalo and Jahanbakhsh, were much of the action until McTominay broke the deadlock late win the first half. The Seagulls pressed forward and were edging towards an equaliser but for the hand of Henderson. A much changed team meant strength on the bench and it was this that won the game for United. Starters, Mata and VdB, were afforded more space as Brighton worried about the subs in Pogba and Rashford, the former pair combining to make it two, Mata slotting home. Pogba rounded proceedings with a deflected free kick, off a man and the post, to make it a more comfortable win than the flow of the game would have let you know
Recovery Recovery Recovery
During the defeat to Crystal Palace in the first game of the season, Neville exclaimed that United need not worry about the chase of Sancho, for a CB that is able to handle 1v1 duels and recover once the ball goes over the top as the starting pair in Maguire and Lindelof aren’t able to cope in such situations. Funnily enough, United do have a CB that is able to do it. Such is his injury problems that Eric Bailly has that he has been largely discounted when pundits and fans alike talk about the depth in quality for the central defensive choices. He found himself quite unlucky not to start on the weekend vs tonight’s opponents, where he did eventually come in as part of a back five to see the game out. Tonight, support would have only grown for the Ivorian to take one of the starting spots as he follows on from the performances he has largely shown since he has come back from those two long term knee injuries. Brighton were not as intense with the offensive pressure as they were on Saturday but when they did venture into those positions, be it transitional or settled possession, more often than not, the end of the attack was met with the intervention of Bailly. He did not do much spectacular, perhaps the only good pieces of defending being twice that Bernardo lost Dalot, one where the latter was too far up the pitch and the second as the Portuguese RB was too easily ghosted past, and Bailly stepped across to cover, something that Rio Ferdinand had been quite critical of the English and Swedish centre backs not doing. His ability to recover makes it easier for his partner to push further and play on the front foot, knowing that they have a defender behind that has the athletic ability to stem the danger of a good chance being created. Positionally, he never looked out of place. On the ball, never unnerved, although perhaps a bit more passive than one would like. It is hard to trust Bailly now because every time momentum grows, it is curtailed by injury but by the words of Ole himself, those injuries may very well be behind and it is coming at a time where we have needed him more than ever.
If only, if only
As the poem goes, the woodpecker wishes the bark on the tree was as soft as the skies. When you watch Juan Mata tonight, you may get a wish of if only he was younger and able to utilise the offensive prowess that is now in the team rather than the stodgy, aging attack his prime was wasted with. Not to be completely separated as a contributor to these aforementioned negatives, his ability in the final third is something that cannot be questioned. We have players like that now with Pogba and Bruno but the little Spaniard offers more technical security, the potential for less turnovers, whereas the Frenchman and ex-Sporting man hinge the majority of their passes on defence splitting passes. He’s smarter than most too, his cutting across Dan Burn, one of the slower races in football, to earn a foul. A foul that earned a free kick that he took and McTominay nodded home, to put the Red Devils ahead. The second was wonderful play, juxtaposing much of what preceded before it, as the substitutes of Pogba and Rashford injected liveliness into the play that eventually culminated in beautiful link up between Donny van Der Beek and Mata, the latter finishing very well. Speaking of the new, sadly only, signing this summer, the Netherlands international may be not as dexterous with his touch as the ex-Valencia and Chelsea midfielder, he can offer a bit of Mata, in some kind. As much as his off the ball runs and awareness is lauded, he is assured with the ball at his feet. He can link up well with pretty passes and so far, has picked the right moments to pick up the pace or slow the tempo with safer passes. What’s more, he has the mobility that Mata has always lacked in his career.
Is that Da-lot?
The exclusion of Diogo Dalot from squad has raised many an eyebrow, especially now that Timothy Fosu Mensah has managed to work his way above him in the pecking order. The lack of game time has led to a numerity of rumours regarding the right back’s future, ones with AC Milan being the strongest. Reports have said that Dalot’s passivity in and out of possession has been why he has not been fancied. Offering definitive conclusions on tonight’s performance would be harsh given he has not had the opportunity to play himself in a groove but you can see his unpolished nature. Defensively, while not glaring, he did not cover himself in the biggest galore. His strengths lie in attack but even then, he was not imposing or progressive with passing or running. His final delivery flattered to deceive a little and opportunity to make it four was passed up. All in all, quite unremarkable and you can see why many see an unpolished gem within the boy but will he have the game time, something he has almost nary had since being a Red Devil, he needs to progress? It is unlikely with the options Solskjaer has on the board.